Tamil Opinion

Ms. En Scene: Confessions Of A Kuppai Padam Addict

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Ms. En Scene – where Ranjani Krishnakumar concedes that cinema is life. Opinions expressed are those of the contributor, and not those of the company or its employees. 

Nearly two years ago, one December evening, my friend Vinay and I went to watch Katthi Sandai (2016). For the uninitiated (good on you, mate!), Katthi Sandai is an action-drama-musical-thriller-romance-comedy film, featuring Vishal, Tamannah, Soori and Vadivelu, among others.

I had invited my friend to watch the movie with me: I was a Vishal fan, I still am. My friend readily agreed: He was a Vadivelu fan, he is still a fan of what Vadivelu was. We figured the film is going to be awful.

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But we promised to close the year out on a high note; we expected this film to be so bad that it’s going to be great.

Good lord, we weren’t ready for what hit us.

Five minutes after the intermission, Vinay reluctantly whispered, “polaama?” (shall we go?). I grabbed my coke and popcorn with me, and walked out of the theatre. In the background, on a 70mm screen, Vishal was lip-syncing to an auto-tuned version of Hip Hop Tamizha saying ‘I got the money money money’!

That night, I’d taken a vow — I am never going to watch a film that I know will be awful. I swore on my dead pride to only watch films that will be worth my precious time. I will only support ‘good cinema’. I am going to teach these crass, misogynist, casteist, classist filmmakers a lesson by rejecting their work. I am going to be the one I aspire to be!

Cut to 2018.

My name is Ranjani and I’m a kuppai padam addict.

I don’t go to KPA Anonymous. I don’t get interventions from friends/relatives. I haven’t lost friends to this gruesome habit. I hardly, if at all, get grief for my extremely harmful addiction. You know why?

Because I’ve built for myself a protective web of lies and deceit, convincing every single person around me that (1) this is not addiction. (2) this is not harmful. (3) this is necessary.

Lie no. 1: This is not an addiction; I choose the kuppai padams I watch.

If I’ve ever said to you, “I’m not addicted, I just enjoy a relaxing ‘mindless movie’ on a Sunday afternoon,” boo hoo! The first thing about convincing oneself and others that this is not addiction is to believe that you can stop it whenever you want.

Except, I can’t. Bang in the middle of a workday, among people busy at work, a colleague and I watched Hara Hara Mahadevaki (2017) online on his laptop. It was grinding our souls, we endured a few minutes and then he gave up. I got home and finished watching it. Just like I finished watching Katthi Sandai on SunNxt, several months ago. I don’t choose these kuppai padams, I am addicted to them. I voluntarily travelled to the movie theatre to watch Anegan (2015), 10 Enradhukkulla (2015), Chennai 28 II (2016), Singam 3 (2017), and Ivan Thanthiran (2017). Even before Prime and Sun Nxt, I’ve watched Remo (2016), Thodari (2016), Ko2 (2016) and Gethu (2016) — can I get a woot woot for Gethu? Gautham Karthik, Vikram Prabhu, Udayanidhi Stalin — paarapatchame illaama, I’ve watched films of all these menfolk.

I could have stopped at any point. I could have just closed the browser or my laptop.

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But no. I kept going. Seeking solace in the next kuppai padam, day after day.

Oh by the way, if I’ve ever told you, “I play the film in the background while I’m doing dishes,” suckerrrr! I’ve had a dishwasher for years now! #oksorry

Lie no 2: I’m an enlightened film viewer; this doesn’t harm me.

Even if I write off all the hours I’ve lost watching this trash, and the hours I’ve spent cleaning up the clogging of my brain nodes, here’s a list of films I haven’t watched: Joker (2016), Uriyadi (2016), Kurangu Bommai (2017), Oru Kidayin Karunai Manu (2017), and of course, Pariyerum Perumal (2018).

I had listed all the other language films I’d missed too. But my editor wrote back to me saying they’re paying me by the word and this list will bankrupt them. But you catch my point.

Lie no. 3: This is research; it is strictly professional.

After watching Velaikaaran, my unwaveringly supportive mother-in-law paid me the biggest compliment I’d ever received: “nee epdi indha padam ellam paakkare-nu theriyalai ma. Velai-ya irundhaalum. Nee deivam.” (I don’t know how you are able to watch these films. Even if it’s work, you’re god!)

Since graduating in media studies, even after finding wealth in another profession, I’ve retained my interest in studying and writing about cinema. I wrote a blog then, I write this column now. I have convinced myself, and the world around me, that incessantly watching all these films is work.

No one has so far thought to ask exactly what sociological insight I was hoping to find in Meesaya Murukku, or Ghajinikanth, or Vivegam or Sakka Podu Podu Raja. During my brief stint as part of C S Amudhan’s writing team, people assumed I was doing research for TP2. LOL, don’t tell the real writers of the film about this.

“I ironically enjoy Vishal films.”

“I am hate-watching Santhanam films.”

“I need to watch every single police procedural ever made to be able to write authoritatively about cop films.”

“Cop films are my niche.”

“Samuthirakani is a good actor.”

“I’m too tired to process an intense film.”

“I love my brother, so I went along with him again for a movie I’d watched already.”

“There is nothing better playing.”

“I am mature enough to ignore the misogyny and take just the good bits.”

“The film is so ridiculous, I am laughing at it.”

“I love the popcorn.”

Lies, damned lies and addict’s lies.

Is there a kuppai padam addicts anonymous in Chennai? My Twitter DMs are open.

Illustration: Dani Charles

*****

Unmistakable. Meticulous. Predominantly an essayist. Evolved from a marketer. Ranjani Krishnakumar eats Tamil films all day and fruits for breakfast. Roosts with pair in Chennai apartment. Usually found chasing Vitamin-D. Believes “Dei” or “Pch” is the answer to all questions. 

Twitter: @_tharkuri

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